Scientific Head: Lutaenko K.A., leading researcher, Cand. Sci. Biol.
Main fields of research:
Approaches and methods used
In the long-term practice of hydrobiological research of the laboratory, the researchers use the entire complex of modern taxonomic, comparative morphological, molecular and biogeographic methods. The species composition, distribution and biogeography of the biota are studied with the use of generally accepted methods for collecting and processing material. The main methods include collection of the material with records of the amount (concentration) of various groups of aquatic organisms within the habitat, the assessment of the functional role of these groups in the ecosystems, and subsequent modeling of the ecosystems in order to predict their state and to manage them. Registration of the abundance and the biomass (total mass) of individuals allows us, on one hand, to clarify our knowledge about their ecology. For example, comparing the number of individuals of the given species (age and condition) on different substrates, we can see what substrate and to what degree are preferred by this species. Similarly, it is also possible to determine the relation of these organisms to temperature, salinity and other environmental factors. On the other hand, basing on the knowledge of the size and biomass of different population groups, we can determine the structure of populations and biocenoses, the dynamics of their state, and their local variability. Finally, data on the number of various organisms are required for total assessment of their role in various processes within the ecosystem.
For quantitative estimation, the researchers use a variety of instruments, usually operated from board of the vessel into the sea (bottom samplers, dredges, plankton nets, plankton scoops, bathometers, etc.). With their help, certain water areas or offshore grounds are explored to establish the species composition, abundance and biomass of organisms found in the samples and subsequently converted per unit area or volume. Petersen small grabs (sampling area of 0.025 m2) used in shallow water to a depth of 20 m can be manually operated. One of the generally accepted methods for studying the chemical and physical properties of bottom sediments and benthic organisms at great depths (over 20 m) is the method of sampling from the bottom with the Ocean-50 bottom sampler (span of 0.1 m2) for further investigation in the laboratory. The main plankton fishing gear is plankton net of different models. In addition to plankton nets, other hydrobiological devices are also in use: bathometers of different capacities, plankton indicators, plankton recorders, etc. However, the standard fishing tool accepted for quantitative research is the plankton net.
Quantitative processing of samples includes the counting of the number of individuals of each species, possibly by age stages or size groups. Biophysical and biochemical methods are used to estimate the number of organisms. For example, the concentrations of chlorophyll and ATP show the concentration of algae and bacteria, respectively; and the spectral composition of light coming out of the water (remote spectroscopy) indicates the content of chlorophyll in water. Underwater photography, echolocation, as well as visual observations made from boats with the use of scuba gear and continued in stationary laboratories complement the set of tools and help our scientists to comprehend an idea of the concentration, distribution and the structure of populations in the biocenosis under study. Assessment of the functional role of individual population groups in the ecosystem is important to determine the significance of these groups in transformation of substances and energy in the ecosystem. For this purpose, physiological, microbiological, biochemical, biophysical, toxicological and many other methods are used. Mathematical methods and the system analysis are widely applied to model the processes of interaction between various components of ecosystems, to predict their state and behavior in various situations.
The traditional systematics is based on the study of the morphology of organisms with the use of a variety of approaches and methods - anatomical, comparative morphological, light and transmission microscopy, and, in recent years, the molecular genetic approach.
Range of organisms and objects under study; geography of research
The laboratory research is focused on invertebrate and vertebrate animals of various regions of the World Ocean - from the Arctic to the Antarctic, in the Pacific, Indian, Atlantic oceans and in various latitudinal-climatic zones - tropical, subtropical, temperate and cold-water. The research is aimed at taxonomic revisions, the study of phylogeny, biogeography, ecology, morphological and functional traits of individual groups of animals: cnidarians (Cnidaria; Scleractinia, octocorals, and sea anemones), gastropods (Gastropoda) and bivalve mollusks (Bivalvia), seed shrimp (Ostracoda), hooded or comma shrimp (Cumacea), isopod crustaceans (Isopoda), meiobenthos animals (Nematoda and Foraminifera), echinoderms (Echinodermata), holothurians (Holothuroidea), decapod crustaceans (Decapoda) - Callianassidae, Upogebiidae; invasive species, deep-sea benthos in various regions of the oceans (cold and temperate waters of the northern and southern hemispheres, tropical regions of the Indo-West Pacific, Arctic and Antarctic), description of taxa new to science, the study of history, and inventory of biota.
Information provided by the senior researcher Yu.A. Trebukhova.